Bert & May x Brasserie Blanc
By Victoria Smith
Dec 8, 2022
We love searching for antique tiles to bring back to life and share with you, as well as creating new collections, but what you might not know is that we also work with businesses to design one-off products that embody their brand look and ethos and help tell their story.
Recently, we’ve realised this isn’t something we’ve shouted about enough, but having worked on some really fantastic projects this year, we thought it was time to shine a brighter light on what we can offer with Bert & May Bespoke.
This tailored design service provides our trade and commercial clients with the opportunity to create products that either complement their existing branding or provide a springboard to build it up from scratch. A truly collaborative process, it involves both sides coming together to capture the essence of the brand or a specific site in a single tile or collection of designs that tick not just the aesthetics box but nail the practicality brief too.
Both of these elements were particularly important during our most recent bespoke project, which saw us working with the team from Brasserie Blanc - a chain of French brasseries inspired by Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc - to create a bespoke tile for their Beaconsfield restaurant. The site where the new design would sit was not only incredibly impressive in terms of scale and aesthetics but also very popular, experiencing heavy footfall all day, every day, so getting looks and durability on point was absolutely essential.
We worked closely with the team from the start, talking through their vision, workshopping shapes, colours, and designs, and ultimately bringing their ideas to life. The result is a tile that doesn't just fit Brasserie Blanc’s bespoke-leaning overall design ethos to a T, but also plays an important part in creating their desired ‘classic but contemporary’ aesthetic.
We sat down with Inge Watrobski, Brasserie Blanc’s Head of Design, and Bert & May’s Regional Sales and Design Manager Sam Ford, to discuss the process from idea to completion…
Bert & May: Why is interior design so important to Brasserie Blanc?
Inge Watrobski: We take great pride in delivering not only stylish interiors, but warm and welcoming spaces as well. We operate like a family where people and food are at the centre of everything we do, and we like our guests to feel that we are welcoming them into our homes.
Do you take a bespoke approach to the interior design of each Brasserie Blanc restaurant?
We do. Some sites are more urban by geography and guest usage patterns, others such as Beaconsfield lend themselves to a slightly more country vibe.
Tell us about the Beaconsfield project…
The site has always been a favourite and it has worked hard over the years so was due a little TLC. We wanted it to feel stylish, and French, and very considered and personal. We wanted to add some colour but in a more muted way than some of our city-centre brasseries. Overall, we wanted it to feel like going away to a French country house for the weekend. Relaxed, easy, and a well-deserved treat.
Why did you decide to design your own tile for the site?
In the initial design of this site, we had a tiled section of flooring directly in front of the kitchen that was a real focal point. The tiles were not in good shape and needed replacing and we knew that whatever we replaced them with would set the tone for the rest of the decor. It was the perfect opportunity to design something bespoke.
What were your initial ideas for the design of the tile?
Initially we decided that the tile needed to provide the primary decorative pattern for this area with upholstered furniture providing secondary and complementary layers for the scheme. We also wanted to have some threads linking it to other sites, so we opted for a hexagonal repeating motif that we had used as a stencil for floors and pillars in our award-winning Fulham Reach project. From a practical perspective, the tile needed to be durable and easy to maintain as it is laid in extremely visible high-traffic areas.
How did you start?
We discussed it with Sam who was very helpful and enthusiastic - it was really reassuring to know that he was as invested in the outcome as we were. He helped take my initial rough sketches to a mock-up where we could experiment with different colourways.
Sam, where did the design process go from there?
Sam Ford: The original design was a square, but the team wanted a hexagon-shaped tile, so the starting point was to help them work out how that was going to work from a practical perspective. I laid up a template drawing, and then we started throwing some ideas around.
We used Photoshop to get the designs together, and we were able to work on the document collaboratively so that we could each put together different combinations of the colours, before settling on Fennel, Pistachio and Blush from Bert & May’s signature palette.
We then handed designs over to our makers in Spain who were able to make a mold for the tile super quickly and create a sample tile, which was then signed off for production.
Inge, how did it feel to see the final design?
Inge Watrobski: I still look at the individual tile design and have a moment of ‘would I choose this tile off the shelf?’, but when viewed as it is meant to be, as the building blocks of a repeat pattern, the final effect is exactly what I envisioned at the outset.
What do they add to the site?
The tiles add a wonderfully biophilic and organic feel. The effect is like walking through a carpet of pretty wildflowers. It gives the area a fresh spring-like feel and we’ve layered upon that with beautiful woven and printed fabrics and a ceiling of hanging greenery. It’s one of the most popular areas of the brasserie.
Do your customers like them?
People have reacted very positively to the design. They love the colours, and the pattern also feels fresh and specific to us and this space as it is unlike anything else out there at the moment. We like that a lot. We like to be just a little bit different, a little bit quirky, but we also want to use design that is not going to date. These tiles are the perfect mix of current and classic to us, which dovetails perfectly with the overall aesthetic of the project.
What first led you to use Bert & May?
We love the aesthetic, the designs, and the quality of the tiles. We feel that Bert & May is a natural fit for both of our brands.
Have you gone on to use our tiles anywhere else?
When we visited the showroom in Chelsea to look at finishes and colours for our Beaconsfield tile, we fell in love with the Carmona Verde. We were working concurrently on a new site in Poole (The Britannia, Parkstone) with a gorgeous outside space where we planned to make an outdoor fireplace the focal point of the garden. We knew instantly that using these tiles to finish it would be the making of the space. We have only been open for six weeks and already we are getting regular comments about how people can’t wait to use the space in summer.
Did the bespoke process live up to your expectations - and will you go for it again?
It was a lot easier than I had originally thought and it’s definitely a process I would like to repeat. It’s really satisfying on a whole new level as a designer to be able to really make your mark on one of the fundamental finishes of a project.
Read more about Bert & May Bespoke here.
To find out more about Brasserie Blanc Beaconsfield, click here.
To find out more about The Britannia, Parkstone, click here.
Designer: Inge Watrobski @ingewatrobski
Design Assistant: Olivia Softley @ois_interiors
Image credits: Inge Watrobski, Olivia Softley